LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell scored the game’s first 27 points, which proved too much to overcome as the No. 15 Lehigh football team fell 48-10 Saturday afternoon at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium. The Bison used a dominant rushing attack to spearhead their offense, snapping a 15-game losing streak against the Mountain Hawks. Senior Brandon Bialkowski finished the afternoon 14-of-28 for 174 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter due to injury.
Junior Matt McHale replaced Bialkowski and immediately finished off Lehigh’s first drive of the second half with a touchdown to pull within 34-10 with ample time still remaining. However, the Bison erased any doubt by scoring the game’s final 14 points.
Lehigh falls to 6-2 on the season and 1-1 in Patriot League play with three regular season games remaining following its bye week. Bucknell picks up its first league win, improving to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the league.
“We got outcoached and outplayed in all three phases,” said Lehigh head coach Andy Coen. “It’s hard for me to say that, but that’s the reality. They ran the ball and threw the ball on us. We struggled on offense dropping some balls and some high throws. It’s disappointing that we came out and played that way in a league game.”
Bucknell’s defense limited the nation’s tenth-ranked offense and third ranked passing offense to its lowest output of the season as the Mountain Hawks gained just 316 yards, 85 on the ground and 231 through the air. Lehigh was also hurt by a minus-five turnover differential as three Mountain Hawk quarterbacks totaled four interceptions and Lehigh freshman Brandon Leaks lost a fumble on the opening kickoff.
Bucknell recovered Leaks’ fumble on the Lehigh 23 yard line. Lehigh’s defense held the Bison without a first down, but a 32-yard Derek Maurer field goal gave the Bison an early 3-0 lead.
Lehigh went three-and-out on its first drive and Bucknell answered with the game’s first touchdown. Wesley hit tight end Josh Brake on a 3rd-and-10 to keep the drive alive and the six-play, 58-yard drive was capped by a three-yard pass from Wesley to Travis Friend and the extra point gave the Bison a 10-0 lead five minutes into the contest.
Bucknell’s lead grew to 13-0 after a 28-yard field goal by Maurer with 5:23 left in the opening quarter.
The Mountain Hawks moved the ball well on their third drive of the game, but facing a third down at the Bison ten yard line; Bialkowski’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Tajh Turner. The Bison capitalized on the turnover with a 92 yard drive capped by a three yard run by CJ Williams to give Bucknell a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Lehigh’s ensuing drive stalled near midfield and Bucknell capitalized on a short punt as the Bison moved 62 yards in nine plays. A five-yard run by Wesley extended Bucknell’s lead to 27-0 midway through the second quarter.
The Mountain Hawks finally put points on the board on their final drive of the half. Lehigh went 71 yards in 13 plays, but after the drive stalled inside the Bison ten-yard line, freshman Ryan Pandy booted a 25 yard field goal to cut the deficit to 27-3 at halftime.
Both teams ran 34 plays in the first half, but Bucknell gained 276 yards compared to 146 for Lehigh. Bialkowski was just 12-of-24 for 120 yards and two interceptions in the first half. Kurfis caught four passes for 48 yards while senior Keith Sherman was the top ground gainer with 27 yards on seven rushes.
Bucknell continued its impressive showing on the opening drive of the third quarter as Williams capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with his second touchdown run of the day, this one from 17 yards out to give the Bison a 31-point advantage early in the third.
Lehigh put the ball in the end zone for the first time of the day as Sherman capped an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a three-yard run. A 48-yard reception by Sherman got Lehigh out of a 3rd-and-3 hole. McHale came on for an injured Bialkowski to convert a 3rd-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to junior tight end Dylan Colgate.
The Mountain Hawks appeared to snag momentum after recovering a surprise onside kick, but Lehigh was flagged for offsides. Bucknell returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield and Williams netted his third touchdown of the game with an eight-yard run to extend the Bison’s lead to 41-10.
Bucknell’s Matt DelMauro added a 22-yard touchdown run with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter to round out the scoring.
McHale finished 7-of-13 for 57 yards and an interception while adding 26 yards on the ground. Freshman Nick Shafnisky came in for the final series, adding 28 yards on the ground while misfiring on two pass attempts.
Kurfis finished the afternoon with eight catches for 84 yards, Sherman added three for 58 and Colgate had three for 33. Forced to utilize the passing game after trailing early, Sherman only had nine rushes for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Bucknell held the edge in total yards (509-316) and rush yards (296-85) while Lehigh held the advantage in passing yards (231-213).
Despite the loss, the Mountain Hawks remain in contention for the Patriot League title and NCAA playoff spot with three critical league games remaining.
“There’s a tremendous amount of parity in this league. I’ve been saying that for years,” Coen said. “The way it looks right now we have three league games left. If we can find a way to win them all we will be where we want to be.”
Coen also commented on Lehigh’s upcoming bye week.
“We have a chance to get some guys healthy hopefully,” he said. “After a performance like this, I’m glad because obviously there are a lot of things that we have to take a long look at.”
The Mountain Hawks will have their bye next Saturday and will return to action on November 9 when they host Holy Cross. Kickoff is set for just after 12:30 p.m. from Goodman Stadium.
Lehigh lost its first game against Bucknell since a 21-14 setback in Lewisburg in 1997… the 38 point margin of defeat was Lehigh’s highest since a 35-0 loss at home to Villanova in 2010… the Mountain Hawks’ defense has not forced a turnover since Isaiah Campbell’s game-ending interception at Princeton, a span of five games… senior Tyler Ward and freshman Colton Caslow registered a team-high ten tackles… senior Nigel Muhammad added seven stops and 1.5 tackles for loss… junior Tim Newton delivered Lehigh’s only sack of the day… the Mountain Hawks were just 3-of-15 on third downs after coming into the game ranked third in the FCS in third down conversions.